Festival Year: 2023
Melody Starya Mobley was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the youngest of three children, and graduated third in her high school class of more than 500. She attended the University of Louisville her first year studying zoology then transferred to the University of Washington and completed her degree in forest management in 1979, the first Black American woman to do so.
In 1977, even before finishing her degree, Melody began working for the USDA Forest Service part-time in Skykomish as part of the Cooperative Education Program. Melody was the first African American female forester in the USDA Forest Service. And after graduating in 1979, Melody went on to explore much of the country during her 28-year career with the USDA Forest Service. She held a wide variety of posts, from a public affairs position in San Diego with the Cleveland National Forest; to a temporary assignment as an assistant district ranger with the Klamath National Forest in northern California; to a stop with Florida’s Ocala National Forest as District Timber and Wildlife Staff Officer where she established the first threatened and endangered species survey program in the state; to participating in helicopter marijuana raids on Nevada’s Toiyabe National Forest as the Deputy Forest Supervisor; to Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments in Africa and South America, the Smithsonian National Zoo and the World Wildlife Fund; and on to the national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Mobley, a forester for 46 years, retired from the USDA Forest Service in 2005 and now lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her dogs and cat. Melody serves on the Forestry and Natural Resources Commission, the NAACP Environment and Climate Justice Committee, is on the Board of Directors for EcoAction Arlington, a non-profit that helps restore and protect natural places, and on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Native Plant Society. She has many jobs as a volunteer from hospice work to Meals on Wheels to working with seniors on brain-teasers, registering voters in underserved communities, and teaching science and math in Arlington public schools. Melody is also the chair of the Arlington Public School Science Advisory Committee. Her USDA Forest Service uniform and tools were accepted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of African American History and Culture permanent collections and her name is on the Wall of Honor in the National Museum of the American Indian.
Festival Year: 2023